Too Soon To Panic

It’s too soon to panic.

Seriously, it’s Game 1 of 162. You can be annoyed. I’m not exactly thrilled. Nobody likes to lose, after all. But if you’re legitimately panicked after one game, well, I probably can’t calm you down, but I’ll try.

No, the Red Sox did not look great today. But after a short offseason and sloppy Spring Training, I honestly did not expect them to.

Chris Sale’s first inning was strong, striking out three of the first four batters he faced for a scoreless side. But his velocity was down and when he took the mound for the second inning, his command was spotty, at best; he allowed 7 runs (including 2 homers), his most ever in a Red Sox uniform, and he lasted just three innings, total.

Hector Velazquez came in to relieve Sale, though relief pitching has felt like an oxymoronic term with this team the past year or so. He gave up three runs before Heath Hembree and Tyler Thornburg, the alliterative twin disasters of the Red Sox bullpen walked in more runs and gave up more homers to widen the gap. It’s hard to see them sticking around the club; neither had strong Spring Training outings. Hembree posted a 4.20 ERA in 60 innings of regular season work last year; Thornburg, a 5.63 ERA in just 24 innings pitched. But as ESPN Sunday Night Baseball cohost Jessica Mendoza said to me last week, “Dave is not done.  I feel like the bullpen piece needs more and I feel like they will go and get more, I’ll be shocked if they don’t do something before July comes around.”

And the Red Sox bats weren’t silent, but they also weren’t the Red Sox bats we’ve come to expect. The top of the first inning was strong, with three of the first four batters getting on base, including JD driving in Mookie for a 1-0 lead. But compared to the Mariners’ bats, including Tim Beckham, who had two home runs, and Edwin Encarnacion, who also homered, the Red Sox looked weak.

The game was not without it’s rough moments defensively, either. Eduardo Nuñez, who has been open about his preference for third base, was at second today; he earned an error when he botched a routine groundball up the middle. Meanwhile, Rafael Devers, who’d shown marked improvement at third during Spring Training, made his first error of the season in the bottom of the first inning. At one point, Mookie ran headfirst into a wall. And there was also a weird moment in the third, when Mookie and JBJ had a collision of sorts in the outfield. On his way to catching a routine flyout, Betts stepped on Jackie and knocked him to the ground. The cause was poor communication, or lack thereof.

They’re tired. Maybe they’ve got a touch of World Series hangover. Maybe (probably) they need some arms upgrades. But guess what? They also lost Opening Day in 2004, 2007, and 2018. The other thing those three seasons have in common? They’re three of our four championships this century.

So take breath, decompress, let these facts and stats sink in, and decompress. There’s plenty of time to tinker. Plenty of time to trade. Plenty of time to turn the tide. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve only just begun.

Photo: Red Sox Twitter

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